Ashes 2013: First Test preview

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The Ashes series begins at Trent Bridge on Wednesday morning with England in the unfamiliar position of favourites to claim the urn, having triumphed in each of the last two series with Australia.

A narrow victory on home soil four years ago saw England regain the urn they had relinquished in Australia two years before, while an historic 3-1 win in the following series down under was their first in 26 years.

Both teams, however, enter into the eagerly-anticipated series under the stewardship of different captains, with Alastair Cook and Michael Clarke having taken the respective helms following the resignations of Andrew Strauss and Ricky Ponting.

This summer is Cook's first as England skipper, but the 28-year-old feels he has earned his stripes in his short term in charge, with the side having triumphed in India last winter.

"I feel experienced as a cricketer and captain and in the last six months I've grown into the role quite nicely," Cook told a press conference on Tuesday.

"I've got a huge amount of learning to do, but the only time you can do that is out in the middle, in those situations."

Clarke, meanwhile, has rejected assertions that the outcome of this Ashes series will define his period as captain.

"I've read it will make or break my reputation as a captain. Personally, I don't feel like that," Clarke told reporters. "Every Test match I play in, every time I walk out to bat I try and make a hundred, whether it's against Bangladesh, India, South Africa or England.

"That doesn't change my mindset. Because of the history and tradition of what comes with Ashes cricket, which is fantastic, it obviously builds this series up and that's great for the game, but as a player my mindset will be no different than it was last summer.

"Every time I captain Australia I want us to win."

As far as England are concerned, the main talking point ahead of the Ashes opener has been the selection of young Yorkshireman Joe Root to open the batting alongside Cook, at the expense of Nick Compton.

Compton had been at the top of the order in every Test since the retirement of Strauss last summer, but saw himself sidelined just weeks before the Ashes in favour of Root.

Despite the relative controversy surrounding the decision, Cook is content with the choice of Root as an opening partner, and has been impressed by the temperament of the 22-year-old Ashes debutant.

"He's handled himself in every situation fantastically well since making his England debut," Cook explained.

"What's impressed everyone is he has always batted the situation fantastically well, so whether it is a one-day game in which he needs to score quickly or to see the side home, he's changed his style.

"I can see no reason why he can't handle himself. He's a fantastic young player, yes he's got a huge amount of improvement to do, but I think he'll be fine."

With Kevin Pietersen back to full fitness and no other injury concerns, the only decision that remains for England is who will take the role of third seamer, with Steven Finn, Tim Bresnan and Graham Onions all in contention.

Cook hinted that a decision has already been made after claiming he is 'happy with the composition' of the side, but the final XI will be revealed at the toss in Nottingham tomorrow morning.

England predicted line-up: Cook, Root, Trott, Pietersen, Bell, Bairstow, Prior, Bresnan, Broad, Swann, Anderson.

Australia predicted line-up: Watson, Rogers, Cowan, Clarke, Hughes, Warner, Haddin, Starc, Siddle, Pattinson, Lyon.

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Australia cricket
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The Ashes

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